Julian Brangold: the computer error as a great revealer

Pau Waelder

Julian Brangold (Buenos Aires, 1986) is one of the leading names in the growing digital art community in Argentina. Through painting, computer programming, 3D modeling, video installations, collage, and a myriad of digital mediums, he addresses how technologies such as artificial intelligence and data processing are shaping our culture and memory, as well as our notion of self. An active participant in the cryptoart scene and NFT market in Argentina he has been exploring art on the blockchain since 2020 and is currently the Director of Programming at  Museum of Crypto Art, a web3 native cultural institution.

Coinciding with the launch of his solo artcast Observation Machines, which brings together a selection of four artworks from a recent series exploring classical sculpture and computer glitches, we sat down to discuss his work and views on the digital art scene. 

Julian Brangold, Observation Machine (Bifurcation), 2022

Every artist studying Fine Arts is confronted with classical sculpture as a model and a source of inspiration, to the point that this particular period in the history of sculpture has become intrinsically associated with the concept of Fine Arts and academia. Is it correct to see in your work a reaction to this?

I see the aesthetic territory of Greco-roman classical statues as a marker for how contemporary imaginaries are constructed today. Our cultural identities are shaped by this legacy, and my interest resides in a sort of ontological anchor to this node, and how it connects with the now, how it has an impact on our collective cultural memory. More specifically, I am fascinated by how information storage technologies today shape our relationship to that legacy that exists in the form of data, and how it makes us connect to that information so differently from how we could in the past. 

“My approach is mediated by error aesthetics, the computing error as a sort of visualizer of the hidden side of technology, of a great revealer of what commercial technology tries to hide.”

My bond to this imagery began when I came across an overwhelmingly enormous Russian database that stored hundreds of thousands of photographs of ancient Greco-roman culture (art, architecture, ornaments, technical objects). I wanted to explore how appropriating this complete sea of information as a subject matter would look like. The first exploration came from creating a data scraper that stole all the images of sculptures from the website and then grabbing small bits from that huge span of data and developing an intimate relationship with just one cutout to create something very human, very handcrafted and detailed. In this case a drawing, or a series of drawings. In the process, I also explored how technological tools would facilitate a sort of mishmash of the aesthetic “trigger” of these classical imaginaries (we know immediately what we are seeing when we come across these images) with modern computer aesthetics. 

Physical mixed media artworks such as the Anonymous Elements of Cultural Memory (2019) series already show an interest in classical sculpture, a form or rendering (as a drawing) and duplication. These elements are clearly present in your digital artworks, what does working with 3D rendering bring to your original intentions in these series?

This is a very interesting question because for years I worked with flat images, as you mention, in drawings, and then translated them to physical large-scale collages where the process of printing and then hand-pasting the different parts of the composition was part of the work itself. The jump to 3D was in the same line, a large database of 3D scanned classical sculptures (in this case one that is meant for people to be able to print out their own versions of this classic statuary), but I became very enticed with the idea of manipulating these object in 3D space because the visual possibilities expanded enormously. My approach is mediated a lot by error aesthetics, the computing error as a sort of visualizer of the hidden side of technology, of a great revealer of what commercial technology tries to hide. So error was a big part of the transition from 2D to 3D, in the sense that the manipulations were about destroying these 3D models, breaking them, bending them, and then seeing what happens when I tried to put them back together. 3D models have a lot more potential for destruction, at least in my mind, because there is simply more data to work with, more possible iterations of the same object when, for example, you can rotate 360 degrees. 

Julian Brangold. Observation Machines. A Song of Rubble, 2022 (detail).

Your digital drawings bring to a tangible medium (paper) a single fixed composition that stems from your exploration of 3D models. How is the process that goes from the 3D model to the drawing? Do you build the composition “manually” (intervening in every step) or do you let the software decide on certain aspects of it?

I love to use randomness in my work. I am very fond of serendipitous findings in the process of building an image, especially when working with computers, because this error aesthetic shines through. I use a lot of procedural tools in 3D to create the destruction and decomposition of these 3D models, and the outcomes are usually very surprising and accidental. The first explorations based on photographs from 2019 and 2020 were digital but hand drawn, because I was looking to convey a more intimate relationship with the material. Even the return to the physical outcomes (the printing and then collaging these drawings on a canvas) was also related to that same intention. The later 2021 and most recent drawings are created with 3D shading tools that imitate a flat style, a technique called “Toon Shading”, mixed with a tool in Blender called “Freestyle”. I find it funny to go back to 2D using 3D tools, it’s like the flat, drawing aesthetic is somehow calling me. 

Julian Brangold, Fade, 2022.

In your video works there is often an atmosphere of decay and decomposition, the latter being also present in Observation Machine, albeit as something fluid and reversible. Is this a comment on our society, or rather on the ephemeral nature of 3D renderings, despite appearing “real” and “solid” to the eye?

It is definitely more related to the ephemerality of 3D objects. It has to do with this notion of “showing what is behind”’ the tools we are using, of using technology to reveal more than what we try to hide. I use industrial and commercial tools that always invite us to orbit closer to streamlined aesthetics that tend to deny the fact that they are being used, to “cheat” the eye into realism, or hide the process happening behind. This is a constant in all artistic disciplines. Film montage for example works very hard to hide itself, to give a feeling that you are “not watching a film”. I think (and this is not a very new notion) that there is a form of subversion in using the tool in ways it is not intended to be used, and thus the outcome is not about cheating the eye, but more about revealing what hides underneath. This is where error, destruction, decay, and “untidiness” come to play.

Julian Brangold, Observation Machine (Bifurcation), 2022

In the Observation Machine series, we see several classical sculptures that are used as raw material for digital manipulation. Which sculptures did you use for these artworks? Are these 3D scans that you made yourself, or that you took from an online library? If so, which one? Is the iconography or original placement of the sculptures relevant to you, or have you chosen them mainly for their aesthetic appeal? 

The 3D scans come from an open-source library called “Scan The World”, as I mentioned before, meant for people to be able to print out their own versions of classical sculptures. The process of selecting which sculptures I use for each work varies from series to series. In this case, I wanted to explore different possibilities of the 3D tool I’m using (Blender), and ended up choosing the sculptures using very visual parameters (scale, shape, amount of information). Sometimes I like to empty the sculptures of their cultural meaning and just look at them as pure subject matter, almost like an abstract object, particularly to see what happens if I do that, what happens to the archival baggage. It is kind of paradoxical, but I like that it’s all intertwined in the same process.

A common trait of the artworks included in this artcast is that, unlike previous works, they play shadows and contrast to appear flat, going back and forth between what could be seen as a digital painting and a 3D object floating in a virtual space. Color also plays an important role in creating this perceptual effect. Can you elaborate on these aspects of the artworks? 

“Observation Machines” is a series of time-based works that present an emulation of a machine learning process being operated on these sculptures. The movement and sound are inspired by a machine’s logic of movement. It is an imagination exercise: what would it look like if a machine were trying to study this object? In the works included in this artcast (a subset of this series), I wanted to explore how when using color alone within the 3D software the image would transition from two-dimensional to three-dimensional. The only thing changing in these pieces besides the sculpture is the color of the background, which makes the shadows and the textures react differently and thus reveals the depth of the object being observed.  

Julian Brangold, Observation Machine (Iteration), 2022

You have come to prominence in Argentina as a leading figure in the contemporary art scene linked to NFTs. Can you tell us how this scene is evolving and how do you participate in it? What have NFTs brought to digital artists in Argentina, and is it different from other art scenes, as far as you can tell?

I have a background in the traditional art world, where I spent almost 12 years, so for me entering the crypto art world had a very strong influence on how I see my practice and my career. Argentina hosts one of the largest, more organized communities of crypto artists in the world, called Cryptoarg. I was part of the conception of this community from the start, and the relationship with other artists that came from very diverse backgrounds in art and the creative industries, intertwined with a novel art world that had very new dynamics and potentials, was a very impactful experience for me. Argentina already has a very close relationship with crypto technologies, being one of the “capitals” for Ethereum development, for example. I think we are very prone to adopting alternative means for the distribution of labor, information, and capital management, mostly because of our very precarious economic conditions. 

“The crypto art scene is very different from the traditional art scene. The tools for the experimentation, collaboration, and distribution of art make it a very fertile landscape for exploration and experimentation.”

The crypto art scene is very different from the traditional art scene. The tools for the experimentation, collaboration, and distribution of art make it a very fertile landscape for exploration and experimentation. Honestly, I find the traditional art world quite stagnant in its approach to technology. It is almost as if traditional art curriculums turn their back to our contemporary technological realities, and if they adopt some sort of look or introspection that relates to technology, it is usually quite a few years late. It is crazy to think it is still hard in some traditional circles to have technological art considered a valid art form. This is why, for me, the crypto art environment is interesting, it is very technology-native, and so the attention to what is happening with technology is very novel and updated, it is fast-paced in the same manner that technological development is, and it provides an honest, accurate look at contemporary culture, in a way that the traditional art world can’t keep up with because of its interests and scale. I don’t renounce the traditional art world, I’m very much interested in a lot of things that it has that the crypto art scene doesn’t, so I keep advocating for a cohesive intertwinement of both, a mutual nurturing. Even the distinction between both feels a bit silly sometimes. It’s all art we are talking about in the end. But the crypto art world developed so fast and came out of the underground so quickly that I feel it missed a bit of depth in its contextualization and organization. 

Julian Brangold, Observation Machine (Fragmentation), 2022

You are now director of programming at the Museum of Crypto Art. Tell us about this entity and your role in it. How do you define crypto art, and what do you find more interesting about it?

The Museum of Crypto Art (MOCA) is in my mind the very first web3 native proper art institution project. It began as one of the largest crypto art collections and became a space for empowering, contextualizing, and displaying digital art in experimental new ways that were in tune with web3 technologies. Decentralization plays a very important role in the museum’s ethos, and so my role as director of programming is to create a cultural output curriculum that follows that ideology. This is why, beginning next year, we will begin to experiment with the museum’s DAO and have the community of art enthusiasts, collectors, and artists participate in the construction of that curriculum collectively. 

We are looking into ways of creating an art program that escapes the top-down dynamics of traditional institutions, which are inescapably mediated by political and cultural bias, without losing the paramount power of cultural resources such as expert curation, historicization, critique, archiving, and the creation of artistic experiences. It is a very challenging project and holds a great deal of responsibility, but it is one of the most exciting ones I’ve ever been involved with. 

“The fact that an artwork can be sold as unique to one individual at the same time that it is readily available for anyone to experience in its native form is very powerful.”

I find the definition of crypto art as challenging as the definition of art itself. I am a big advocate of definition by context, both in the notions of art and crypto art. So, I guess I would define crypto art as whatever art exists in the context of blockchain technologies. The same goes for art in general, which for me is whatever exists within an “art-appointed” context. As an artist, I find crypto art interesting in its nativeness to technology, and in its potential for experimentation and the exploration of distribution and commercialization. The fact that an artwork can be sold as unique to one individual at the same time that it is readily available for anyone to experience in its native form is very powerful.

As an Argentinian, I’ve struggled a lot with the accessibility of art (my artistic idols had exclusive exhibitions in London and New York all the time, so I simply didn’t have, and still don’t have, access to their works), so the fact that crypto art is an ecosystem that hosts art that is naturally networked and accessible to anyone with access to the internet is very captivating to me. The problematizing of certain arbitrary boundaries established by the traditional art market, between “the high arts” and other creative disciplines, is also something I find quite appealing. In general, I have to say that the disruptive nature of crypto art, and the fact that it challenges an art world status quo, is one of the most interesting things for me. It kind of fucks things up a bit, and I find that quite exhilarating, and honestly, quite necessary too. 

Daïchi Mori, the unexisting artist

Pau Waelder

It is hard to find information about Daïchi Mori, an elusive artist who, despite being active on Twitter and Instagram, does not like to talk about himself. His work consists mainly of drawings on paper inspired by traditional Japanese art, but with a personal twist that connects with contemporary manga and pop culture. 

A collaboration with Nieto, a French-Colombian filmmaker, performer and stage director with a penchant for the grotesque and surreal, has brought his work out of its secluded world. Nieto’s three-part documentary film, aptly titled Daichi Mori. The Art of Unexisting (2021), portrays him as a hikikomori, a person who has decided to avoid all social life, in a manner that is both humorous and mythicising, playfully addressing the archetype of the mysterious, secluded artist. 

Interested in disseminating his work in editions of NFTs, Mori has created a series of animations based on the main subjects of his drawings, some of which are presented in the artcast Hikigaeru. Entering the NFT scene has brought Mori in contact with other artists, among them Mihai Grecu, who kindly facilitated the initial contact that led to the collaboration with Niio and to this interview. 

Daïchi Mori, Hikigaeru. Frog battle two, 2022

A characteristic aspect of your work involves the creation of long handscroll illustrations inspired by the tradition of emakimono. Why did you choose this format? 

This format is “cinematographically speaking” very interesting for me, because I can write and draw the story in “one take”, since there are no pages: there is no frame, the viewer make their own framing as he is watching and going through the roll, they can expand or reduce the frame… They can just open the whole thing and look at the whole story at once, it’s very playful as a narrative storytelling technique and style.

In a way it’s a very avant-garde way to see a painting or a comic book, and paradoxically it is also a very ancient Asian technique.

Itō Jakuchū, Drawing of a frog, 1790.

Your work has been described as influenced by Itō Jakuchū, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Kazuo Umezu, and Suehiro Maruo*. This comparison spans two centuries and includes an eighteen-century Kyoto painter known for this depictions of animals (among them, some popular frogs), a great master of ukiyo-e, the father of terror manga, and one of the most known ero guro manga artists. Can you elaborate on the references to these artists?

As a contemporary artist I always believe I’m a “dwarf” compared to the ancient masters, so I like to jump on top of their shoulders to try to look beyond, never forgetting the ancient when I’m drawing. But at the same time, I’m also surrounded by so many contemporary things and styles… In a way, this is my little revolution: going back and forth through the ages, styles, cultures, in order to digest something new.

I’m also very sensitive to the “dark humor:” artists have always lived surrounded by chaotic periods (wars, catastrophes, pandemics…). This is not something “new,” like most people believe, the artist has to try to pull the funny part out of all that, try to make some poetry out of this chaos. I don’t like artists who are too dark, depressive, nor the “feel good” artists who ignore the bad part of the human being. I try to find a way to cry and laugh about the world.

“I don’t like artists who are too dark, depressive, nor the «feel good» artists who ignore the bad part of the human being. I try to find a way to cry and laugh about the world”

Your animations are particularly elaborated and, while they are clearly influenced by traditional Japanese painting, they incorporate obvious references to anime and action films. How do you conceive these animations, and how do they relate to the illustrated handscrolls?

These animations are sort of a “spin off” using a particular character or detail pulled out from the bigger rolls, so I can develop that particular character in different nonsense situations, again trying to recompose the chaos into something fun and aesthetic. Always contrasting with some elements from the ancient world, reminding us that our story is just going in cycles, like an eternal return.

Daïchi Mori, Hikigaeru. Frog battle three, 2022

In Higikaeru, a giant toad and its minions play the role of the nemesis of the hero. Given that frogs usually represent good fortune and a safe return home, why did you choose to make them evil?

For me there is no evil or good, especially in the animal kingdom. Animals are just defending themselves or acting as a group to attack the weakest one; but at the same time they came as a group because each one of them are weak on their own. My story is just inspired by what I see, all the “social life” for example. I’ve always wanted to be alone, not belong to any group, but all of the people around are trying to grab you into one particular group, “like a group of frogs trying to tear out your face”  that’s the symbolic idea behind these recurrent animations. Emiko (the human kid) and Higikaeru (the frog) could be seen as good or bad, according to each episode, but again this is just a humanistic consideration. 

Daïchi Mori, Hikigaeru. Frog battle three, 2022

The main character, Emiko, has his face ripped off, the skin dangling on the side. This turns him into a mysterious hero, who looks as if he’s wearing a mask. What inspired you to create this character?

It’s a personal way of seeing myself as an “unexisting” artist. I don’t want to be seen, nobody has seen a photo of me, I just want my art to be known, this is why the hero has no face, which makes him someone totally versatile, unrecognizable, he doesn’t need to wear a mask to survive in society, he exists just for what he represents and not for what he is.   

View of the exhibition “Engloutir l’univers, excrémenter une fourmi” by Daichi Mori and Nieto at Galerie Da-End, 2018. Photo courtesy of Galerie Da-End

In your exhibitions, your work usually takes the form of an installation, with a rather theatrical setup, dominated by light and darkness. What do you find interesting about this type of presentation?

This part comes more from the artist Nieto. He is a sort of video artist, and “stage director” of Opera. He really liked my work, and wanted to expose it, so he created this kind of theatrical installation inspired by my work.

Working with Nieto seems to have had a crucial impact in your career. Can you describe this collaboration?

At the beginning I didn’t want to exhibit my work, I thought my art was just for me, something intimate that nobody has to see (as with my face), but he insisted so much that finally my grandmother convinced me to do it. He also made a short animation movie, using my rolls, it’s not bad, it’s called “Swallow the Universe.”

View of the exhibition “Engloutir l’univers, excrémenter une fourmi” by Daichi Mori and Nieto at Galerie Da-End, 2018. Photo courtesy of Galerie Da-End

Nieto created a documentary about your life and work that presents you as a hikikomori and almost as a fictional character. What do you think of this characterization?

It is very funny. I laughed when I saw it because it’s just a collage using images from the internet, but telling my own story. We Japanese are very open minded to this kind of auto-ironic style, so I really loved it because he managed to represent me in a very satiric way.

“What I love in general about this idea of metaverse and NFTs is that there is nothing physical there. I just want to work, isolated in my room, no need to go to a snobbish opening show” 

You recently launched a sale of artworks as NFTs in the marketplace Objkt.com. Why did you choose the Tezos blockchain to sell your artworks? How has been your experience in the NFT space so far, both in terms of selling your work and participating in a community?

I actually first did a NFT release in ETH last year. After that I decided to try Tezos because the community seemed more prone in welcoming new artists, also the artworks are easier to collect there, the “gas fees” (transfer you pay to collect an artwork) are much lower and there and many experimental artists in the scene who don’t need to focus on the money but can focus also on expressing themselves.

What I love in general about this idea of metaverse and NFTs is that there is nothing physical there. That is exactly what I wanted. I just want to work, to be enclosed, isolated into my room with myself, no need to go to a snobbish opening show or meet people IRL. Also I like the idea of something international, “universal”, without stupid laws telling what I should or should not do.

Triptych of Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre, c. 1844, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861), V&A Museum no. E.1333:1 to 3-1922. Source: Wikipedia

* Notes: a bit of history of Japanese manga

Manga is the Japanese term for comics and cartoons, developed since the late 19th century but with deep roots in earlier artistic forms such as emakimono, painted narrative handscrolls depicting scenes from daily life that date back to the 8th century, as well as sketches and isolated “whimsical” drawings by ukiyo-e artists such as the celebrated Hokusai (1760 – 1849).

The artists mentioned in this interview, whose work has been compared to that of Daïchi Mori, draw an interesting genealogy within the evolution of Manga.

Itō Jakuchū (1716-1800) was known for his paintings of animals, particularly roosters and other birds, and his restrained and professional attitude, as well as his strong connection to Zen buddhism. His humorous sketches of animals with human-like personalities have been re-discovered in recent years to great acclaim. One of his drawings from 1790, a sketch of a frog, has been particularly popular.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798 – 1861) was a great master of ukiyo-e who worked in a wide range of genres, including scenes with legendary samurais, landscapes, portraits of kabuki actors and beautiful women. He is also widely known for his satirical drawings, in which he depicts cats with human traits, and woodblock prints populated by otherworldly creatures.

Kazuo Umezu (1936), manga artist, musician, and actor, is considered the godfather of horror manga, a genre he helped develop since the 1960s. Inspired by ghost tales and local legends his father told him when he was a child, his work combines supernatural horror with the goofy comedy of characters such as Makoto-Chan. His stories frequently include young boys and girls being attacked by skinless monsters and creatures with physical deformities.

Suehiro Maruo (1956) is a manga artist with an international cult following. His work contains graphic sex and violence, also frequently depicting body deformities, in what is known as ero-guro, or “erotic grotesque.” Mutilation, blood, gore, and explicit sex are commonly present in his unsettling illustrations, which are nevertheless executed with a masterful attention to detail and composition. 

Out of the grid, into your screen: display your NFTs anywhere

Pau Waelder

The NFT revolution has brought an unprecedented attention to digital art, which is now easier to collect than ever before: once you sync your wallet to the marketplace, you only need to browse, pick your favorite NFTs, and in two clicks you’re the proud owner of a rare gem that just dropped. It is so easy that many collectors have hundreds, if not thousands, of digital artworks in their wallet. The excitement of owning something beautiful and unique, paired with the immediacy of the transaction, can become addictive. As the collection grows, it fills row after row of an endless grid that you can see on any web browser. With a simple copy and paste, you can also share your collection with anyone and brag about your possessions, your taste, or your ability to seize the opportunity and get that coveted artwork that is now out of reach of most wallets.

The excitement of owning something beautiful and unique, paired with the immediacy of the transaction, can become addictive. As the collection grows, it fills row after row of an endless grid that you can see on any web browser.

In the heyday of its market boom, NFTs were seen as quick investments that provided those who arrived earlier and were faster to collect an opportunity to multiply their earnings by buying and reselling quickly: this is what in the art market lingo is known as “flipping.” But art flippers are frowned upon in the art world: what artists, galleries, and also art lovers want are serious collectors. A serious collector is someone who buys art out of a deep appreciation for the artwork, and wants to keep it. Someone who likes to support artists and learn from their work, and obviously someone who enjoys experiencing the artwork, not just storing it somewhere.

As the NFT market has begun to attract serious collectors, a specific question has risen to the surface: how to display the NFTs in your collection? This is a concern that was usually ignored by those who intended to keep the artwork in their wallet for just a few minutes. But now that art flippers, discouraged by the drop in value of cryptocurrencies and many hyped collectibles, have begun to look elsewhere for investments, those who remain and are really interested in the art they collect are considering how to enjoy the artworks as they would if they owned a painting or a sculpture.

From browser to room

Typically, marketplaces focus on providing artworks for sale and securing the transactions. They can also provide additional files that only the owner of the NFT can access, countering the argument “why buy something anyone can download?. In some cases, the platform is not just an endless grid displaying every artwork that users have uploaded, but something more. This is, for instance, the case of Feral File, which features NFTs in curated selections that focus on a particular subject or format, and put together artworks by emerging and established artists, oftentimes produced specifically for the platform. Feral File also stands out from other marketplaces in that it provides collectors with detailed information about each artwork, its format, and the associated files that will be transferred after the sale. As I mentioned in a previous article, it is very important to know exactly what you are getting when you buy an NFT

Beyond securing the means to collect NFTs and preview them in their own website, most marketplaces do not offer any means for collectors to display the artworks they own elsewhere. Here again, Feral File is an exception with the development of the smartphone app Autonomy, which allows bringing to a single interface all NFTs collected in different wallets, on Ethereum or Tezos, and viewing them on the device’s screen. The artworks are collected from their IPFS addresses, which at first might cause some delays in loading and viewing the artworks, particularly for a large collection. The app also offers the possibility of connecting to a smart TV or projector and viewing a single artwork on a screen of projected surface, although this relies on a previous synchronization with the device that is not always easy to achieve: while Chromecast and AirPlay are increasingly used, not all screens and projectors support them properly. Solutions like Autonomy respond to the need that NFT collectors have of managing their collection and displaying the artworks, but they are still not fully developed.

Niio has a robust system for storing and managing collections of video and digital art, that is paired with a curated art program, and an app for iOS, Android, and Apple TV, also directly available on Samsung and LG screens, that allows to display a continuous stream of artworks, full collections, and curated selections with information about the art and the artists. The system also provides full integration with NFT collections by allowing users to synchronize their wallets and import the NFTs to their Vault, where a copy of the IPFS stored file is saved and can be immediately displayed on any screen using the Niio app. In this manner, the solution provided by Niio finally fills the gap between buying an artwork minted as an NFT and enjoying it on a high resolution screen at home, or anywhere. Once the wallet is connected to the collector’s personal account, they can buy NFTs on any marketplace, choose which ones to store in their private vault, create their own playlists, and view them in the app or on a screen.

This is the future of collecting, as gallery owners Valérie Hasson-Benillouche (Charlot, Paris) and Wolf Lieser (DAM, Berlin) recently pointed out: collectors are traveling a lot, and they like to have their collection with them, and also to share it with others. This brings a different way of buying art, as it is not only meant to be placed somewhere, but it becomes part of the collector’s daily life and interactions with others, wherever they go.

Moodies LA Takeover. Photo courtesy of Moodies by Hanuka

Formats and behaviors

A question that comes out when displaying NFTs usually is: how do I display my square NFT in a 16:9 screen? Certainly this is a common issue due to the paradoxical fact that TVs have evolved from being square to rectangular, while digital art, that usually adopts the format of a screen in portrait or landscape orientation, has usually adopted square formats in the NFT market. The explanation for NFTs being square can be found in the grid established by most marketplaces, which has become the field of battle where artists compete to show their work, the latter being limited to a square thumbnail. The square format has also proven to be the most successful on social media, and particularly apt for PFP collections, the type of art that one buys to use as a profile picture and signal one’s belonging to a community defined by a particular NFT project such as CryptoPunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club, or more recently, Moodies by Hanuka.

While some square frames exist, not all artworks minted as NFTs follow this rule, so it is up to each collector to decide whether to use a regular screen for all the art they own, or find a place for an additional screen in this particular format. Certainly, just as most collectors have artworks in different sizes that fit certain spaces of their homes, it is possible to have a series of screens (one in landscape orientation, another one in portrait orientation, and finally a square screen) to display different kinds of artworks. In this case, it is important to use a system that allows controlling the art displayed on all of the screens from one app, which is something that Niio can uniquely do.

Just as most collectors have artworks in different sizes that fit certain spaces of their homes, it is possible to have a series of screens to display different kinds of artworks

Not all NFTs are the same or have the same purpose. As previously mentioned, some are meant to be used as a profile picture or distributed online, which does not mean they can´t also be displayed on the wall. But others have a particular behavior, they can be generative, or interactive, which means they require a software to run continuously and sometimes an input in the form of a mouse click, movement captured by a camera, and so forth. Digital art has many forms beyond what is usually associated with NFTs, and since artists can mint any digital artwork as an NFT, it must be remembered that some can only be experienced with a specific software and hardware setup. In these cases, the collector must take into account that they need to setup a computer with the software provided by the artist, and connect it to a screen. Some companies, such as FRAMED*, sell a digital frame with an integrated computer that can run software-based artworks, but the collector must make sure that the software of the artwork they own is compatible with this type of device, as well as the size and orientation of the screen (FRAMED* currently sells a device named Mono X7 which is a 17.3-inch portrait orientation display). For video artworks, there are also solutions like Infinite Objects, which provide a customized small screen to display a single video in a continuous loop. Described as “video prints,” these screens have been used by some artists to turn an NFT into a unique object.

Autonomy lets you access your NFT collection and display it. Niio allows you to store, manage, distribute and display video, digital art, and NFTs on any screen.

A collection that lasts

The NFT space wants serious collectors that do not engage in art flipping and hold to the art they own. But collectors also demand a lasting solution for their art collections, which at first the NFT art market, immersed in constant dropping and transacting, did not care much to provide. Most NFTs are stored in IPFS, a peer-to-peer network system that is expected to keep artwork files safe and at the same time publicly available. However, the best option to ensure that one will be able to preserve the artwork is to download the file and keep copies in different locations. This is particularly true for unlockable content that is only available to collectors and usually consists of larger files and additional material. Most marketplaces rely on links to IPFS and store unlockables in their servers, but a safer choice is to keep everything at hand, in a private space. Niio provides collectors with a vault where they can store the artworks and manage all the information about them, including additional files that will be kept private and can always be downloaded. The artwork can be displayed and shared, but it is also securely stored.

Most marketplaces rely on links to IPFS and store unlockables in their servers, but a safer choice is to keep everything at hand, in a private space.

NFTs show that art collecting is entering a new phase in which collectors want flexibility, ease of use from their smartphone or any other connected device, and the ability to take their collection anywhere. But they still want reliability and a way to safely preserve their artworks. The solution that aptly responds to all of these needs will become the standard in the art world.

The Role of Art in a Climate Emergency

Pau Waelder

On 13th October 2022, two climate activists from the environmental group Just Stop Oil, Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland, threw two cans of tomato soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s painting Sunflowers (1888), on display at the National Gallery in London. They glued one hand to the wall under the painting and sat on the floor. Phoebe Plummer then said: 

“What is worth more, art or life? Is it worth more than food, worth more than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people? The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of the oil crisis. Fuel is unaffordable to millions of cold, hungry families. They can’t even afford to heat a tin of soup. Meanwhile, crops are failing, millions of people are dying in monsoons, wildfires, and severe droughts. We cannot afford new oil and gas, it’s going to take everything we know and love.” 

The young woman’s passionate statement was cut short by a security guard who proceeded to remove them from the premises. The activists were brought to a district court and charged with criminal damage. Van Gogh’s painting, protected by a glass, was not harmed, although the frame suffered minimal damage, according to the museum.

The protest has sparked widespread outrage at what can be seen as an act of vandalism. Attacks on artworks at museums have been perpetrated many times by individuals for a variety of reasons, sometimes political, sometimes to draw attention to personal issues. Often, the perpetrators have been described as insane. It is therefore unsurprising that the act carried out by the two young activists has been perceived as criminal, deranged, and appalling, or simply dismissed as stupid. This type of protest is not new, it has been taking place over the summer by Just Stop Oil and then by climate activists in Italy, in actions that mainly consisted of gluing their hands to the protective glass or the frame of a famous painting depicting nature. The activists have taken precautions not to harm the artworks, and therefore cannot be considered to vandalize them, although they have at times caused damages to the gallery walls or the frames. However, no other protest has caused such strong reactions as the one carried out by Plummer and Holland, probably due to the aggressiveness of throwing liquid over a painting (which would normally cause irreparable damage), and maybe also due to who carried out this action. Two young queer women, Plummer and Holland have increasingly become the target of critics who have questioned their sanity and intelligence, and ridiculed everything in them, from their names to the color of Plummer’s hair and her accent. 

An artist’s response

Among the few in the art world who have expressed support for the protest is artist Joanie Lemercier, whose work is often inspired by nature and the representation of the natural world, leading him to address climate change and environmental degradation in artworks and performances that document and support the work of climate activists. In a video posted on social media, Lemercier states:

“Paintings are often the representation and celebration of landscapes, nature, and life. But we don’t actually give much value to these subjects or to their protection. So we are in the process of losing the conditions of habitability of the planet, yet a lot of people are outraged about a symbolic action that didn’t even damage the painting.” 

Addressing the subject matter of the painting, Lemercier points out that the sunflower fields that inspired Van Gogh in Verarges have recently reached the highest temperature ever recorded in France. “We are irreversibly losing these landscapes that Van Gogh loved painting so much,” states Lemercier. The artist suggests that, instead of focusing on the apparent attack on the painting, the public should pay attention to the message that the activists are trying to communicate. He concludes: 

“How do we protect, not just the representation of a landscape on a canvas, but the very landscape that is being annihilated? If we listen to the activists, the message is very clear: we need to stop oil, gas, and fossil fuel extraction.”

Joanie Lemercier makes a good point by presenting a documented, reasonable take on the protest and its meaning, that is arguably more convincing than the protest itself. He does not approve the attack on an artwork, but rather emphasizes the fact that this is a desperate measure to get a message across, and makes it clear that the painting was not harmed. However, it is hard to support the idea that good can be done by attacking cultural heritage, and it is dangerous to simply expect activists around the world to diligently inform themselves of the ways in which an artwork can be exposed to liquids, glues, or other substances without causing permanent damage. 

We care more about representations of nature than about nature itself. We have made cities and virtual spaces our habitat, while using natural environments as sites of leisure, or even just as an image to be displayed on the computer’s desktop. 

Personally, as a curator with a background in art history, I feel a natural aversion to any form of attack to a work of art (including the practice of burning prints and paintings to sell them as unique NFTs), but I understand the urgency expressed by the activists and the fact that collectively, we care more about representations of nature than about nature itself. We have made cities and virtual spaces our habitat, while using natural environments as sites of leisure, or even just as an image to be displayed on the computer’s desktop. 

What is the role of art in our present climate emergency, then? Maybe something more than becoming the backdrop of climate activists’ demands. The controversy around the soup thrown at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers has focused on the act of attacking a famous, and very expensive, painting, as well as in the activists themselves, but no attention has been paid to the connection between the life and work of the artist and the land that he loved, except in the reading presented by Lemercier. Living artists are now responding to climate change with artworks that speak to our present and address those same issues laid out by the activists, so it would be wise to listen to them too. 

Marina Zurkow, OOzy#2: Like Oil and Water, 2022

Art in a climate emergency

Artists addressing climate change in their work face the challenge of creating art that is engaging in itself, that responds to aesthetic considerations, but also manages to get its message across. This is not easy to achieve, particularly at a time when people consume large amounts of visual material and read the messages that get to them quickly and superficially, as the Just Stop Oil protest and its reactions clearly show.

Transdisciplinary artist Marina Zurkow points to the need to look beneath the surface by taking as a reference a diagram created by Donella Meadows in the 1970s, which uses the image of an iceberg as a metaphor of how difficult it is to change the mental models (the hidden part of the iceberg) that shape the visible actions and their consequences. She applies this concept to our understanding of climate change: 

“Honestly, I feel like if we can’t have an emotional relationship to the material of our planet that is at great risk, we can’t change the way we think about the world. And so anything like «don’t take a plastic bag,» or «get an electric car,» all the moral imperatives that are put on us, if they don’t come from the heart, they’re not going to stick, they’ll just be gone in the next election cycle –at least, in the United States. And so what I am committed to do with my work is to create emotional connections to this material and the ocean.”

Tamiko Thiel, Unexpected Growth, 2018

The pollution of the oceans is an aspect of the impact of human activity on the planet that relates to the climate emergency, as well as with our contradictory relationship with nature as an idealized image and a neglected wasteland. In an interview with Helmuts Caune published in Arterritory, artist Tamiko Thiel recalls her experience with the reality of plastic pollution:

“When my husband and I would vacation in Greece, Indonesia or Malaysia over the past number of years, at some point we started to realise that the sort of pristine beaches that are everyone’s dream of a tropical vacation is an artefact of beach-side resorts. They send out their staff in the early morning hours, before everyone wakes up, to collect all of the plastic that’s accumulated.”

She created the artwork Unexpected Growth (2018), commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art, that addresses this issue by placing the viewer in an immersive scenario in which the 6th floor of the museum is under water, populated by plants and creatures formed of plastic debris. The experience can lead a visitor to think about this reality, but at the same time, the piece is quite beautiful, its aesthetic qualities possibly causing more delight than awe.

Balancing environmental concerns and aesthetics is particularly difficult. Marina Zurkow points out that addressing a subject in a manner that is too shocking can lead to rejection:

“The brain wants to categorize what it receives and put in boxes and dismiss those ideas that seem dangerous, depressing or disturbingly radical. Presenting an audience with an impactful idea will attract their attention, but it may also lead them to reject the idea because it is too disturbing and just move on. Our brains want to take a nap, and have a difficult time dealing with uncertainty.”

Kelly Richardson, HALO I, 2021

Artist Kelly Richardson deals with climate change in her work by creating imaginary futures that prompt a reflection on our present. In this way, the message is placed at a certain distance in time that does not produce anxiety and allows a space for action: 

“Until this point, on this precipice, we’ve allowed terrifying futures to be ushered in despite the predictions of so many. Perhaps we have allowed this in part because we couldn’t visualize or understand these futures from an experiential point of view. I try to offer this window of understanding through my work. I create potential futures for people to experience, to encourage reflection on current priorities and where those are leading us as a species.”

In HALO (2021), Richardson depicts a red moon distorted by heat rising from a campfire, a scene from her summer evenings in British Columbia that now takes a different meaning as the rising temperatures have led to banning campfires due to the risk of wildfire. “Summers now bring a mix of joy for its promised, remaining riches and genuine fear associated with what else they will bring,” states Richardson, “I now look out my windows towards a tree-covered mountain and think, «that’s a lot of fuel».”

Diane Drubay, Ignis II, 2021

The scene in Richardson’s video is relatable and in this manner makes its message stronger. This approach to what is familiar and close is also mentioned by artist Diane Drubay when addressing climate change through her work:

“We need to reconnect with what surrounds us on a daily basis in order to better understand and respect it. Having grown up in the middle of nature but having lived in the city for the last 20 years, the only element that has allowed me to feel connected to the grandeur and sublime of nature is the sun. I, therefore, assumed that if everyone could reconnect with the sun in a subconscious and transcendental way, a new relationship between humans and nature could be sparked.”

Her work Ignis II (2021) shows a beautiful summer sky that turns into a menacing red storm in just 14 seconds, which refers to the 14 years left until, according to several scientists, the Earth would reach a point of no return in global warming. Again, the image can be easily connected with a personal experience and suggests a reflection on a future that is not immediate, but is close enough to require immediate action.

Alexandra Crouwers, The Plot: a day/night sequence, 2021

Personal experiences can have powerful narratives, particularly when they bring a more intimate perspective to climate change than the global views offered by scientific reports. Artist Alexandra Crouwers focuses her work in the creation of virtual environments that reflect on our relationship with nature, landscape, and architecture. She speaks of feeling eco anxiety for more than 20 years, which has brought her to consider the climate emergency from a more personal point of view. 

“There is a kind of innate longing for landscapes that are not there. This is connected to the idea of escapism; to escape from where you are at. The word nature has become very problematic: what we refer to as nature is quickly deteriorating in all kinds of senses. To me, simulating this idea of wilderness is like a twisted sense of digital nature, of purpose preservation. It is a way to deal with the idea of loss.”

In Diorama. The Plot: a day/night sequence (2021), she depicts what is left of a small family forest that was cleared due to a climate change induced fatal spruce bark beetle infestation. The 3D rendering of the real space becomes a sort of memorial and a tool for the artist to investigate how to deal with eco anxiety and ecological grief.

Katie Torn, Dream Flower I, 2022

Depicting remnants, ruins, or debris is also a powerful way to create awareness about the ongoing destruction of our natural environment. Taking this idea to a different context, artist Katie Torn has addressed the possibility that we as humans have become incapable of understanding nature without our intervention, and can only envision a hybrid world in which natural and artificial merge into one. The classical concept of beauty plays a pivotal role here, as it confronts us to our distancing from nature:

“Destruction and decay are frightening but it can also be beautiful on a purely aesthetic level. Like watching a forest fire from your computer screen. It is awful and heart breaking but can be watched slightly removed like an explosion in an action film. My work stems from the ironies we see in industrial disasters in nature like the most beautiful pink sunset that is caused by pollution or being awestruck by the colorful beauty in an oil spill.”

While works such as Dream Flower I (2022), cannot be said to address climate change, they do point out our relationship with nature in a wider sense, the mental models to which Marina Zurkow has referred, and that form a society interested in its own comfort, regardless of the consequences to our planet.

Christopher Makos: everyone is in drag

Pau Waelder

Niio is proud to introduce a selection of artcasts by celebrated photographers in collaboration with Fahey/Klein Gallery, the leading contemporary photography gallery in Los Angeles. Curated by Nicholas Fahey, these selections dive into the work of the artists, presenting key series and iconic images, and are available to our members for a limited time only. .

Interview with Christopher Makos. Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery

Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Christopher Makos moved to New York after high school. He traveled to Paris and met surrealist photographer Man Ray. During this time, he traveled around Europe and spent long sessions with Man Ray, learning from his experience and working method: “His philosophy was, go by your first impressions, your gut feelings,” recalls Makos about his conversations with Man Ray, “because usually these are the best, because by the time you’ve looked at it two or three times, that analytical part kicks in, and then you start to question some of your inputs.” This advice has led Makos to always keep all of his material and revisit it later, to discover new readings and possibilities that he may have previously overlooked.

Christopher Makos. White Trash, 1977

“From Man Ray I learned to go by my first impressions, my gut feelings”

Back in New York, Makos met Andy Warhol in 1976 through his friend Dotson Rader at an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The photographer then had a show at a gallery in 492 Broadway titled Step on It, which consisted of putting the photos on the floor, covered by Plexiglas sheets, so that visitors would have to look down instead of staring at the walls. Warhol could not attend but sent Bob Colacello, who loved the show and invited Makos to visit the Factory. He then started working for the influential Interview magazine, after taking some pictures of Warhol. “At the time, they weren’t really shooting assignments,” says Makos, “it was more like, you know, we decide on somebody and they would see if it’s a good fit.” 

Christopher Makos. Portrait of Andy, 1986

He became a close friend of Warhol and to a certain point, an influence in the way the famed artist would conceive photography. Part of their collaboration revolved around Warhol’s interest in modeling. Sony Corporation was interested in having Warhol as a spokesperson of their products, and at that moment he realized he did not have a portfolio of pictures that could help him in this aspect of his career. “Andy had a film career, a painter’s career, an author’s career, but he never had a modeling career,” states Makos, “and if you see the pictures, you’ll notice that he’s quite awkward in it. As he was a painter, his hands are quite telling of how awkward he might feel at that moment.” 

Christopher Makos. Debbie Harry, 1977

In 1977, he became known for his book WHITE TRASH, which depicted the punk scene in New York alongside portraits of some of the city’s celebrities, such as fashion designer Halston and singer Deborah Harry, among many others. In the 1980s, he became an exceptional chronicler of the New York scene through his column “IN” in Interview magazine, presenting up and coming stars Matt Dillon, Christian Slater, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Ford, among others. He traveled to Spain and started a long term relationship with the cultural scene in Madrid, participating in the progressive cultural and social movement known as La Movida, which emerged shortly after the death of dictator Francisco Franco and in the midst of the country’s transition to democracy. His portraits of film director Pedro Almodóvar, fashion designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, actress Bibi Andersen and singer Miguel Bosé are iconic of this moment. 

“Creativity is something that you have to just be open to, and let things emerge.”

In 1981, Makos and Warhol conceived a new photographic project inspired by Man Ray’s series of photographs of Marcel Duchamp dressed as the fictional Rose Sélavy. Warhol characterized himself as a woman, with different wigs and makeup, wearing a white shirt and tie that he rearranged in some pictures to make it look like a dress with a strapless neckline. Both the artist and the photographer rejected a dress offered by Halston for this shoot, which Makos says they should have accepted, although it would have probably taken the series in a different direction. “Some of the people at the Factory didn’t want us to do it, because they thought that would ruin Andy’s portrait career,” states Makos. He took 365 different pictures over two days, of which 120 form the series Altered Image. In these portraits, Andy Warhol plays with stereotypes but does not want to portray the ideal of the complacent, beautiful woman. He looks at the camera with a defying stare that involves more of an introspection of his own identity. Makos compares this work with the way Cindy Sherman plays with stereotypical images and identities, and how everyone plays a certain character in their daily lives, everyone is in drag.

Christopher Makos. Altered Image, 1981

“Andy had a film career, a painter’s career, an author’s career, but he never had a modeling career”

Christopher Makos has portrayed numerous celebrities, from Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, David Bowie, and Salvador Dalí, to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Mick Jagger, among many others. His ability to capture the personality of the person behind the celebrity stems from his early lessons with Man Ray in following one’s gut feeling and letting the person in front of his camera be themselves. A keen observer, he expresses how being attentive spurs creativity: “I think creativity is something that you have to just be open to, and let things emerge. If you keep your eyes wide open, and see things around, creativity can emerge.”

Christopher Makos. Equipose, 2005

Steve Schapiro: what is special about people

Pau Waelder

Niio is proud to introduce a selection of artcasts by celebrated photographers in collaboration with Fahey/Klein Gallery, the leading contemporary photography gallery in Los Angeles. Curated by Nicholas Fahey, these selections dive into the work of the artists, presenting key series and iconic images, and are available to our members for a limited time only.

Interview with photographer Steve Schapiro (July 21st, 2017). Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery

Steve Schapiro (1934-2022) was one of the most prominent figures of documentary photography in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century. An exceptional witness of the civil rights movement, his camera captured key moments in American history with a sharp eye and caring attention to the subjects of his portraits. 

Devoted to photojournalism from a young age, he was inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson and took lessons from W. Eugene Smith, whose teachings marked a profound influence in Schapiro’s work throughout his career. In 1961 he traveled to Arkansas and photographed a camp for migrant workers. Jubilee, a small Catholic magazine, published his photos as an eight-page picture story. The New York Times picked up one of the photos and used it as the cover for the New York Times Magazine section. That was his first real break. Schapiro continued showing his pictures to Life while doing essays on “Narcotic Addiction in East Harlem”, “The Apollo Theatre”, “Women of New York”, and “Jazz Sessions for Riverside Records.” Finally Life gave him an assignment which worked out and he began freelancing for Life and other magazines such as Time, Newsweek, the Saturday Evening Post and Paris Match. 

“There’s so many pictures I look at which have an iconic feel to them. And yet, you can’t explain what it is in the picture that’s causing you to feel that way.”

Steve Schapiro

He closely followed the political and social changes of the 1960s in the United States, accompanying Robert F. Kennedy during his presidential campaign and the civil rights movement’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and the Selma to Montgomery march. In the 1970s and 1980s, Schapiro turned his attention to film set photography. He was hired by Paramount Pictures and worked on the set of famous films such as Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972), Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976). 

Steve Schapiro. Robert Kennedy at Berkeley, California, 1966

The series of photographs of the American Civil Rights Movement is among Schapiro’s finest. In late 1962, he read James Baldwin’s essays in the New Yorker which became the book The Fire Next Time. Schapiro asked Life if he could do a photo essay on Baldwin. They agreed and for the next month Steve traveled with Baldwin to Harlem, North Carolina, Mississippi, and New Orleans. He met many leaders of the non-violent civil rights movement and saw real segregation for the first time. Schapiro notes of meeting and traveling with Baldwin, “Here was an intellectual, a brilliant man, and a black leader who never seemed to forget the importance of relating to each other as human beings. He had a hunger for love and believed in its power.”

Steve Schapiro. James Baldwin, Do You Love Me, 1963

This portrait of Baldwin is particularly telling of a quality that Schapiro sensed in him: his loneliness. Describing the photograph, he confesses: “every time I look at that picture, I feel an emotional moment. Because it seems to me it really points out the loneliness that he had, during 1963, which was the time when I first met him.”

After Schapiro’s photo-essay ran in Life in March of 1963, he was assigned to cover the South in even greater depth. These assignments produced images that are now part of the American collective subconscious: George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama, the March on Washington, Civil Rights leader John Lewis in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leading the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. Schapiro’s photographs from this time are some of the most important historical documents of the American 20th century. While his photographs certainly document the darker side of the struggle, Schapiro also manages to relay the constant reliance upon love, community, and faith that became the legacy of King and his Civil Rights Movement.

“It is looking for that specialness in people, what makes someone unique, which I really treasure, either in a person or in an event.”

Steve Schapiro

The way in which the photographer became part of the people he was portraying speaks of his care and attention to the human side of the stories he was telling through his pictures: “I really enjoy being a fly on the wall,” he says. “And really waiting for that moment when I sense something about someone, particularly in a portrait that really conveys something.” 

Steve Schapiro. Vote, Selma March, 1965

The images from the Selma march are among his most iconic, with this one being particularly symbolic: “[The vote picture] conveyed a sense of what the civil rights struggle was about,” he says, “because it was about gaining the vote for black people in America. There’s so many pictures I look at which have an iconic feel to them. And yet, you can’t explain what it is in the picture that’s causing you to feel that way.” 

Schapiro’s unique ability to blend in with the crowd and capture spontaneity also allowed him to take candid photographs of movie stars, musicians, and artists that communicate a strong feeling of intimacy. His technique basically consisted in being there and assuming he would be allowed to take the picture: “If you’re a photographer, and you smile at people, they feel good about it,” he states. “Most people don’t mind being photographed, unless they feel that you’re going to do something to harm them in some way. So basically, if you’re just matter of fact photographing people in terms of who they are and what they’re doing, you don’t have any trouble.”

Steve Schapiro. Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick and Entourage, New York, 1965

“If I have a philosophy on life, it’s that we should care more about people.”

Steve Schapiro

Steve Schapiro was a great photographer not only because of his technique and his instinct for a perfect composition in the frame, but also because he cared about the stories he told and the people whose lives are part of that story. Without this sensibility and empathy, the images would appear perfect but distant, devoid of the human breath and the beating hearts that one feels in each of his pictures. Schapiro made this clear in one of his last interviews: “If I have a philosophy on life, it’s that we should care more about people. And we should have more of a humanitarian view of things. And I’m concerned that there are important, powerful people who don’t have that, and they don’t value human life. But life is so precious.”